Former Evanston mayor Lorraine Morton died Saturday evening, three months short of what would have been her 100th birthday.
Her death was announced early this morning by Mayor Steve Hagerty, who said, “Last night our city lost a remarkable woman.”
Morton was the city’s longest-serving mayor, serving four, four-year terms, as well as the city’s first African-American mayor.
Mayor Hagerty added, “Her life was a life worthwhile and our community is so fortunate to have had her nearly 100 years of wisdom, inspiration and optimism shared with us so genuinely and generously.”
Morton was born Constance Lorraine Hairston on Dec. 8, 1918, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the youngest child of Keziah Hairston, a schoolteacher, and William Patrick Hairston, who helped found the Winston Mutual Life Insurance Company.
She received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1938 from Winston-Salem Teacher’s College and a master’s degree in education from Northwestern University in 1942.
She met her husband, Dr. James Thomas Morton, while they both attended Northwestern and they married on Dec. 28, 1941.
An excerpt from a forthcoming documentary about Morton’s life.
After teaching in Tuskegee, Alabama, where her husband worked at the veteran’s hospital, the Mortons returned to Evanston in 1953. Lorraine became a teacher in the District 65 school system, while her husband, who died in 1974, became a clinical psychologist at Evanston Hospital.
Morton initially taught at the segregated Foster School, and became the first black teacher at a school other than Foster when she moved to Nichols Middle School in 1957.
In 1977 she was named principal of Evanston’s Haven Middle School. She held that position until she retired in 1989.
She served as 5th Ward alderman from 1982 to 1991 and was elected mayor in 1993, defeating Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, in a runoff election.
She served as mayor until her retirement in 2009. Shortly after her retirement, Evanston’s aldermen voted to rename the city’s civic center in her honor and her portrait was added to the building in 2013.
Artist Richard Halstead joined Morton and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl at the unveiling ceremony for Morton’s portrait in 2013.
She is survived by a daughter, Elizabeth Morton Brasher, and two granddaughters, Elizabeth Keziah and Constance Moriah Brasher.
Guide to the Lorraine H. Morton papers (Northwestern University)
Lorraine Hairston Morton: I Am More Than My Smile (Shorefront Journal)